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Last Updated:  Saturday, 8 March, 2003, 01:02 GMT
Browsers fight it out
Millions use Microsoft's Internet Explorer to surf the web, but there are alternatives, as BBC ClickOnline's David Jamieson reports.

A lizard
One browser is nicknamed The Lizard
Once upon a time on the net, Netscape was the only decent browser. That was until Microsoft threw its muscle behind Internet Explorer, which went on to become the dominant tool to surf the net.

But it is a very wide worldwide web out there, and IE is not the only digital surfboard.

If you use an Apple Mac, for example, you can now try Safari.

"Mac enthusiasts have been raving about Safari since it first came out," said Jonathan Bennett of the technology site, ZDNet.

"They say it's the fastest, best browser available for Mac OS and it looks like it's a winner so far."

Recently released, Safari is in public beta, or test release, at the moment. You can download it from Apple's website.

Safari is based on an open source browser called Konqueror.

Faster display

For something that works on just about any operating system, there is the browser geeks have nicknamed The Lizard. The program is called Mozilla and it is a free, open-source browser.

I designed a browser because I didn't feel that other browsers like Internet Explorer and Netscape were fast enough
Adnan Osmani, XWebs creator
"It's a very good browser, very up to date, very compliant with the world wide web standards, follows them very closely, more closely than any other browser," said Mr Bennett.

"The pages render a lot faster, you can get just part of the page down and Mozilla will start to display the elements so far without having to have the complete page to show you it.

"There's a simple installer that you can download from the Mozilla website. It's available for multiple platforms, whether that's Windows, Linux, Mac or some of the more esoteric operating systems that are around on other machines.

Mozilla is simple to install and can also be used for newsgroups or e-mail.

There are also numerous add-ons, like a sidebar feature that shows content related to the pages you are browsing.

Norwegian surf

Mozilla is a relative of perhaps the most famous original browser of all: Netscape.

BROWSER TRENDS
Internet Explorer 6: 54%
Internet Explorer 5: 39%
Mozilla/Netscape: 2.1%
Opera: 0.5%
Source: Browser News
They look virtually identical and use almost the same internal machinery, but Netscape's is a commercial version.

Since it is based on the same code as Mozilla, it has the same technical advantages. It also comes bundled with add-ons such as AOL Instant Messenger.

"Because it's not distributed by Microsoft, it's cross-platform," said Mr Bennett, "so you can use the same browser whether it's on your Mac or your PC or on your Linux PC, or even if you have something like a Sun Microsystems machine at work."

If you have a need for speed then the lightweight Norwegian-made Opera browser is another alternative.

"We've been on the web now for eight years and we have a lot of users of the PC desktop version," said Opera's Pal Hvistendahl.

"We have about five million users, which is of course small compared to Microsoft's market share."

Teen spirit

There is also a teenager whose homebuilt browser is attracting a lot of attention.

BROADCAST TIMES
Thursday 2030
Saturday 0130 / 0730
Sunday 1030
Monday 1630
Tuesday 0130 / 0830
Wednesday 1330
All times GMT
Adnan Osmani, a 16-year-old from Ireland, has designed XWebs. He says it is five times faster than anything else but he would not demonstrate it to us.

"I designed a browser because I didn't feel that other browsers like Internet Explorer and Netscape were fast enough and they didn't have enough features in them that users would find useful," he said.

And what about online criticism questioning his claims?

"I just shrug most of those comments off. I don't believe people on the discussion groups," said Adnan.

"Their opinion does matter, but I don't really think it makes that much of an impression on me. If they can't look at something in a positive way then just forget about them, that's what I say."




SEE ALSO:
Web browsers go back to basics
22 Jan 03 |  Technology
Browser war veteran comes of age
06 Jun 02 |  Science/Nature
New Netscape targets Microsoft
29 Aug 02 |  Technology
Microsoft looks into browser 'flaw'
13 Aug 02 |  Technology


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